Despite the right-wing trope about Putin playing chess while Obama plays checkers, there’s evidence that Putin really didn’t think this thing through.


I heard a Moscow correspondent last night say he’d been going through all of Putin’s old speeches, and had yet to find any mention of the importance of returning the Crimea to Russian control.


It will be hugely expensive to connect Crimea to mainland Russia, then there is the problem with Crimea’s economy, which is a mess. Putin’s move has just made worse:  Tourism is Crimea’s second-most important sector, and the vast majority of its tourists come from Ukraine. They won’t be coming back for some time, and Europeans are unlikely to replace them.  Putin may encourage more Russians to plan Black Sea vacations, but up until a month ago, he wanted them to vacation in Sochi, where he has just invested $70 billion creating a new tourist destination.  Now Sochi will have to compete with Crimea, and neither will prosper.


Putin was already facing the economic problems that come with being a petrostate, as Rana Foroohar notes in Time.  Putin is increasingly isolated in his own government, listening mostly to old KGB buddies. He’s impulsive and his worldview isn’t that sophisticated.


Obama is correct to say there will be a “cost” to Russia’s aggression, but it’s not really about Obama, and the greatest costs imposed on Russia will come from Putin’s own actions, not any payback from the U.S.


 


Despite the right-wing trope about Putin playing chess while Obama plays checkers, there’s evidence that Putin really didn’t think this thing through.

I heard a Moscow correspondent last night say he’d been going through all of Putin’s old speeches, and had yet to find any mention of the importance of returning the Crimea to Russian control.

It will be hugely expensive to connect Crimea to mainland Russia, then there is the problem with Crimea’s economy, which is a mess. Putin’s move has just made worse:  Tourism is Crimea’s second-most important sector, and the vast majority of its tourists come from Ukraine. They won’t be coming back for some time, and Europeans are unlikely to replace them.  Putin may encourage more Russians to plan Black Sea vacations, but up until a month ago, he wanted them to vacation in Sochi, where he has just invested $70 billion creating a new tourist destination.  Now Sochi will have to compete with Crimea, and neither will prosper.

Putin was already facing the economic problems that come with being a petrostate, as Rana Foroohar notes in Time.  Putin is increasingly isolated in his own government, listening mostly to old KGB buddies. He’s impulsive and his worldview isn’t that sophisticated.

Obama is correct to say there will be a “cost” to Russia’s aggression, but it’s not really about Obama, and the greatest costs imposed on Russia will come from Putin’s own actions, not any payback from the U.S.